Monday 28 October 2013

The morning after the night before.

Well the great storm has swept through leaving behind it untold damage in the form of trees down, power lines down, roads flooded and sadly two deaths.  However much we batten down the hatches such storms will always find a loophole.

Up here in the Yorkshire Dales we felt none of it.   According to the weather map the centre of the storm would be in the South of the country and so it was, although I think the Midlands also fared quite badly.   However, up here, although we were told to expect very high winds and up to two inches of rain - none of it happened.   We had only 10mm of rain and no wind at all.   Today is a lovely, sunny, breezy day - so I must say that we escaped lightly.

An amazing coincidence happened yesterday when a new blogger commented on my post - when I found out that she lived in Wolverhampton, where I used to live, I e mailed her asking where.   After a series of e mails we found out a mutual friend with whom she had lost touch - I was able to put them in touch again.   It is such a small world isn't it?

This sort of thing happens all the time.   Many times on holiday we have chatted to folk and found mutual friends, acquaintances etc.  Once, many years ago now, we were standing on the edge of an iron ore mine on the border between Russia and Norway and we got chatting to a lady standing next to us.   Within a few minutes we found out that her sister lived just down the road from us and we knew her well.   Whoever it was who said that we are all only six people away from knowing (was it the Pope? I have forgotten) was really quite right.   And that is only with the contacts we actually make - think of all the folk that we pass in the street who may have some connection and we never know it.

Towards the end of this week Margaret (Thousand Flower) and her family are coming to call and to stay overnight - now that is a connection one would never expect to make - literally the other side of the world.   Any further round and you would be coming back.  I am so looking forward to it.

Friday 25 October 2013

A very wet morning.

This morning was very wet indeed - this was a great shame as it is Friday - Market Day here in our little town.   And our market is a very good one.  I list the stalls I can remember - vacuum cleaner parts, flowers and flowering plants, pets, materials, cards, clothes, hardware, olives, Indian take away foods, garden centre, two wonderful fruit and vegetable stalls, an excellent fish stall selling all kinds of fish and shellfish, sweets and biscuits, CDs and Videos, local home-cured butchery (fantastic dry cure bacon), computer supplies, jewellry, hats, - and I am sure I have missed one or two. Of course, when it is very wet people don't turn out for the market and the traders know this so they don't turn up.   There were only about half a dozen stalls this morning and by half past eleven the sun was shining - too late.

I always meet a group of friends in the coffee bar on a Friday morning at ten o'clock.   We never miss meeting and it is a real
focal point in the week.   Yes, we are back to friends again and how important they are.

I have the most incredible cough left over from a bug I got a fortnight ago.  Every night I get to bed and then cough myself silly (and keep the farmer awake).   Anybody got an ideas on how to shift it?

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Best Laid Plans

Well, to some extent it has all gone pear shaped.   First of all the oil pipe broke on the giant muck spreader.   As I write this its owner is here in the yard repairing it and as it is a really lovely day here today it is rather frustrating that the farmer can't be using it, particularly as the forecast for tomorrow is terrible again.

And as we had to go to hospital yesterday (the farmer has to have some investigative procedures done) that is two full days when he has not been able to get the muck spread.   Not that it seems to worry him.   If there is one thing to be said for farming it is that it sure teaches you patience.   You can never rely on the weather and you have absolutely no control over it, so you might just as well carry on and as my farmer often says, "take what comes."

The other frustrating thing at present is my not being able to drive - and this will last into the foreseeable future.   This means that every time I wish to go anywhere the poor farmer has to down tools and take me - every Thursday to the hairdresser for example. But thank goodness for wonderful, reliable friends - where would I be without them?   When the farmer has to have his investigation next Tuesday he is to be sedated, so although he could drive himself the twenty five miles to the hospital, he will not be able to drive for twelve hours afterwards.   Thankfully friend W has stepped into the breach.   I know she would say that is what friends are for but it does, as usual, lead me to remind myself that friends are the most important people in one's life and one should value them as such.

Later next week Margaret from Thousand Flower is to visit with her family and stay overnight.   We are really looking forward to the meeting and to welcoming them into our home.   So blog friends too are a wonderful addition and widen the scope of friendship hugely.

The man has just returned with the mended oil pipe - so any minute now I expect to see another load go past the hall window.   And speaking of windows - my window cleaner's assistant called to clean the windows this morning and tells me that the window cleaner fell from the top of his ladder a few weeks ago and was in a coma for two weeks and is only now home and slowly recovering.
Yet another aspect of 'the best laid plans' = we never know where life is taking us, so let's make the most of it. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Today's the day!

The very large muck spreader has been hired and the loose housing is, as I write, being cleaned out of manure from last winter ;it has been left in there to mature over the summer and actually smells delicious- well alright, not delicious as in 'yum-yum' but a lovely healthy smell.   Now the farmer is carting it to the bottom fields and spreading it in spite of the stormy weather (wet one minute, sunny the next).   He has to get on because wet weather is forecast for the foreseeable future and the cows may need to come in at any time.  It is always a hard choice because if the weather is also warm then there is a tendency for them to develop pneumonia.  The good news is that the man he has hired it from says there is no rush for the machine to go back, and he need only pay for it for the hours he uses it.   Often these pieces are paid for by the day which makes it a very expensive operation.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Old Ways

It is my birthday next week (I have stopped counting, so don't ask) and friend G has bought my present already (she always is an early present-giver). It is Robert Macfarlane's latest book "The Old Ways".   As you know from my blogs I am a tremendous fan of Ronald Blythe, Richard Mabey, Roger Deakin and Robert MacFarlane.   This book does not disappoint.

He talks about the old ways in the countryside - not just in this country but around the world.   We tend to forget in these days of dashing from A to B along the motorways, or meandering more slowly along B roads, that for far longer than there have been roads of any kind there have been 'ways'.

Many of them are still there even if they are secret to all but a few folk.   We have several footpaths round here.   Two cross our land and are well-used by ramblers and dog-walkers.   But in the centuries gone by they were well-used by anyone who needed, for any reason, to get to our village (there has been a village on this site for centuries).

The other things which have stood here for centuries of course are the field boundaries.   Many of ours are stone walls - a real feature of the Yorkshire Dales, but we have quite a few hedges too.   It is said that for each species in a hedge you can say the hedge has been there for a hundred years (don't ask me how they come by this arbitrary figure).

Our hedges have field maple, blackthorn, hawthorn, holly -that's four hundred years for a start.   And in addition most of our fields have a name.   Peacock's - why is it called Peacocks?   No idea but it is called that on the map, so presumably sometime in the distant past it belonged to a Mr Peacock.   Another one is calledd Commons - does that mean that it was once common land - presumably.   But the one I like best is the latest field which the farmer bought just a couple of months ago - on all the maps it is called Todelands.  I presume this is Yorkshire speak for 'the old lands'.

How much history there is lying around us.  I read in his book that a Holloway is a footpath which has been trodden lower and lower over the centuries until it becomes deep in the ground.  Near to where we lived for many years in Wolverhampton was a road called just that - and I must say I had never though of it, in spite of the fact that the road has indeed very steep banks on either side.

Do get hold of a copy if you can - it is an interesting read. 

Monday 21 October 2013

A Red Letter Day.

Yesterday, on our walk through the damp fields in the early afternoon, we saw our first fieldfares - always an exciting time for us both as they are our favourite bird.

 There is no mistaking that blue-grey head and rump and that chestnut back, and then to confirm it that swooping flight and that noisy 'chack-chack-chack, as they swoop out of one ash tree and cross the field to another.   The down side is that our hawthorn berries will now rapidly disappear, but that is a small price to pay.

And it is a sign, as though we need it in this weather, that Autumn is really well and truly here, that the Winter visitors have joined us and that it is good-bye to all those Summer ones.

 Incidentally, when writing the title of this post, I decided to look up the origin of red-letter-day in a book of Idioms given to me some time ago by friend G. Although the book says the term has almost died out, it is an expression I use frequently.  (something to do with my age I expect!)

Apparently it originated in the fifteenth century when feast days and saints' days were marked in red on the calendar, and other days were marked in black.  People began to use the expression to mark any day when they were likely to be celebrating or feasting.

Our fields are looking very damp and soggy, crab apples have fallen, making lovely patches of yellow on the grass - and being rapidly eaten by the cattle still in the fields.   Ash leaves in particular are falling fast, particularly on these damp days.   Days like this make me wish sometimes that humans hibernated.


Sunday 20 October 2013

The Dark Days

My mother always used to bemoan 'the dark days before Christmas'.   Well here they have started very early this year as it has hardly got light for the past fortnight on most days.

Yesterday we ran the whole gamut between sunrise and sunset.  We awoke to a thick blanket of fog and so no light to speak of.   Suddenly, at around 7.30am it cleared 'as if by magic' and the sun came out.   It was wonderful to see the sun, but as the farmer took the dogs for their walk at 8.15am it suddenly poured with rain and he got very wet.

The rest of the day was wet until mid afternoon, when it cleared, the sky was blue and the sun came out.   We soaked up the sun shine - it was glorious.   But when the farmer took the dogs at 4.30pm - he got wet again!

Looking out of the back door at half past eight he remarked on the beautiful clear, starry sky and the bright moon.   He had hardly got back to sitting down in the sitting room when there was a huge flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder, and torrential rain.

This morning, at 9.03am as I write this, it is barely light.   The leaves on the horse chestnuts and beeches are the most beautiful colours - how I wish we could have a bit of sunshine so that we could really appreciate them.

The sheep in the field opposite (not ours) have finally discovered how to actually dismantle a wall and are now all streaming out on to the lane.  I have just rung 'their' farmer (a dairy farmer who just takes in sheep for the winter from off the tops) and left a message on his answer-phone, telling him the bad news.   That will make his Sunday!

Friday 18 October 2013

The cost of petrol.

I have just been listening to the news at 6pm and found that our local area was featured when they used Hawes, a little town in the middle of Wensleydale, to demonstrate how crippling high petrol prices were to the economy of The Dales.

I know that as a nation we have got used to complaining about prices - Gas, Electricity, Petrol, Banking spring to mind immediately.   (These flames are fanned by the very high salaries of the top jobs in these industries too.)   But if you look at Hawes - it is a small town with only a limited amount of industry.   I would guess that the main employer is probably the Wensleydale Creamery, which makes cheese and sells it worldwide.   There are also some service industries catering for the needs of the local population, but I suspect many of the inhabitants have a long way to go for work.

There is a petrol station in Hawes, but the petrol and diesel is expensive - a lot more expensive than it is at the Tesco supermarket on Catterick Garrison.   But in order to take advantage of that cheaper price drivers would have a round trip of thirty five miles.  Even if they did their shopping there too, it would still hardly be cost-effective (and it would deprive the local shops of the custom they desperately need to keep going.

I am sure this same thing happens in many rural areas.   Now the Government are apparently going to consider knocking 5p a litre off the price in these rural places - next year. Does it really take that long to consider it?   What about next week?

Thursday 17 October 2013


Isn't it funny.   We get excited when the first daffodils pop up and Spring arrives,  Summer gets us sorting out our cool clothes in a fit of optimism and looking forward to our holidays, we get excited about the first flakes of snow in Winter (alright, the feeling soon wears off but the child in all of us stands at the window and watches the first flakes fall).  But nothing evokes quite the same feeling as the onset of Autumn.

I think it is a Primeval feeling which goes back to the days when our ancestors lived in caves and spent the Summer getting in supplies, knowing that if there was not enough of them they would die before the Spring.

And so it is that  we still do this gathering. Elizabeth (About New York) reminded me of this today and said that she thought there was probably a post there.   So thank you for the idea Elizabeth.

We gather in all the crops.   In the old days my mother used to gather in runner beans and layer them in huge jars with salt.   In order to eat them you had to soak them for 24 hours in water and to be honest, they still tasted disgusting.   Now, along with all the other vegetables, we freeze them, pickle them, jam them.   Can you remember that smell of apples being kept over Winter?   We had boxes in the attic and my father laid the apples out so that they were not touching one another and then kept an eye on them for signs of them going rotten.

Pears from our old tree up the side of the house - fruits which were so hard they could have been made of wood - were wrapped in tissue paper and put in the drawers in the kitchen.   Eventually they ripened.

Wood was sawn, piled up into logs and sticks for lighting the fire.
I could go on but sufficient to say that in the end the householder would stand back with a feeling of satisfaction as much as to say, 'Right Winter, do your worst.  I am ready for you!'

Wednesday 16 October 2013

A Crafty Visitor gets seen off.

Yesterday afternoon about 4pm when the farmer took his sheep dog, Tip and Tess for their afternoon walk, Tess as usual lagged behind at a rabbit hole.   They were just passing our little plantain at the time, the wood where many of our wild pheasants roost for the night.   Unbeknown to the farmer, his friend and neighbouring farmer was just getting his cows in for milking from the other side of the plantain.

The farmer called out for Tess to hurry up and disturbed a crafty visitor to the little wood!   A vixen was lurking in there, waiting for the pheasants to stroll home and fly up into the trees for their nightly roost.   She streaked out in front of the cows plodding home and our friend rang on his mobile to say 'watch out for the vixen' and there she was, streaking across the field in full flight.

She got away this time but sadly I fear thay if she keeps trying the same trick her life may be a short one.   Secretly I hope she learns her lesson.   If only she would stick to rabbits for her food then everyone would think of her as a friend.   But pheasants - and even worse, our hens - are I am afraid beyond the pale.

More apples dealt with today.   Two apple pies made for the freezer for a start, and then for sheer indulgence I made a steamed apple pudding (with suet and brown sugar) for our tea.   Forgetting about the calories I steamed it all afternoon on the Aga and we ate it in front of the wood burner on the most wet and miserable afternoon imaginable.

Tomorrow I intend to add two apple crumbles to the collection in the freezer.  I have hardly made an impression on the apple crop and sadly I really don't think I shall ever get through them all before they begin to deteriorate.   They are none of them

keepers and a box full at the gate for people to help themselves to would be useless as everyone has the same bumper crop.  

Tuesday 15 October 2013

What to do on a 'free' day.

Tomorrow, for the first time in several weeks, I have a totally free day.   I am meeting friend W early in the morning, when she kindly takes me into our little market town to go to the Bank - and afterwards we reward ourselves with a cup of coffee.   Then after my return I have nothing planned.

So, I have had a serious talk with myself today and am determined to set about dealing with the apple crop tomorrow.   We have boxes of apples, none of which are 'keepers' and all of which need using unless we are to perish from a surfeit of stewed apples and custard.

Tomorrow I shall make - and freeze - several apple crumbles, and several apple pies.  Watch this space.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Pen Friends.

When I was a child we were encouraged to have Pen Friends.   I had two.   One was a girl called Diana Wickens who lived in Bexhill on Sea..  As I remember it, we wrote for quite a few years - up to my getting married in fact - but then we lost touch.   The other was a girl called Vera Zborilkova, who lived somewhere in Czechoslovakia - I can't remember where.   The purpose of these pen friends I suppose was a)to encourage us to learn and keep up the art of letter=writing and b)in the case of Vera, to practise one's English.   That has reminded me that I also had a French pen friend, although as I always hated learning French I seem to have completely blocked details of that pen friendship out of my mind.   But in later life I always wished that my French was better.   But the idea of ever meeting one's Pen Friends was remote - travel then in the 1940's and early 50's was not like travel today.   No, these were long-distance, never to be met friends on the whole.

The times have changed  Now what we have are Blog friends.   Some of the people I blog with have been blogging with me since I first began over four years ago and they really do seem like real friends.   The whole idea of blogging has opened up the world to us all.   And as far as I am concerned, every blog friend I have had the good fortune to meet in person has been an added bonus.

I think when choosing who to blog with one tends to veer towards Kindred Spirits in any case, so it is hardly surprising that when one meets them 'in the flesh' they immediately gel.

I met Elizabeth (About New York) when we went to New York.   She took us out for coffee and we rode on a New York Bus across town together.   Anne from Morning AJ - we met in Kirby Lonsdale for lunch a couple of years ago when they were up this way on holiday and this year they called here for lunch on their way past.
Denise of Mrs Nesbitt's space doesn't live all that far away from here and she was able to call with her husband (on the bike) a couple of years ago for a cuppa.   Fiona (Marmalade Rose) lives quite near and we have met several times too.   But the latest meeting,  is a real long distance affair.   Margaret of Thousand Flower is coming with her family for a holiday in England and they are to spend the night with us.

What I find so pleasing about the whole thing is the way in which travel, communications, the making of friendships, all these have made the world seem a smaller and friendlier place.   In these days of turmoil, wars, civilstrife, refugees, hunger, poverty - the list goes on for ever - a small oasis of long-distance friendship is something to treasure, don't you agree?

Saturday 12 October 2013

The sheep arrive.

During what is often a harsh winter here, it is too cold - and in particular damp - for the sheep to stay on the high tops.   So most hill farmers bring their sheep down to lower ground (our farm is around 650feet asl) for the winter and pay someone else to look after them.   We have been dealing with the same hill farmer and his sheep since long before I came on the scene.

The sheep came this morning.   The first lot of almost 150 arrived, tumbled out of the back of the trailers, shot across the field and immediately started eating the dying hawthorn leaves in the hedge.   All the lovely fresh grass seemed to hold no interest for them whatsoever - but they were up on their hind legs at the dying leaves.

Judging by the awful weather today they came just right.   The temperature is down to about seven degrees, the cloud is so low that it is almost dark and a light rain is falling.   We have just been down to our feed merchants to stock up on wild bird, dog, cat and hen food and I am now about to get a warming lunch (pork, broccoli, carrots and mashed potatoes).   Then I think it will be a nice sit by the wood stove all afternoon.

If anyone wants an interesting read I am reading Alan Johnson's (he was Home Secretary in the Labour Government)  "This Boy".   It is about his awful childhood in Liverpool just after the end of the Second World War.   His mother struggled with ill health and his father was rarely there, so he and his sister had more or less to fend for themselves.  It is a sobering read, lightened by the fact that his mother, sister and he were always joined by a strong bond of love.  That certainly helps, although it doesn't do much to make a full stomach when you are ravenously hungry as he often was.

On a lighter note, Elizabeth (About New York) has knitted me the most super alpaca woolly hat for the winter.   The colours are lovely, it fits just right and I love it.   Rather than send her the money for it she has asked me to make a donation to Syrian refugee children.   I am in the process of setting up a direct debit to Unicef, which seems the best of the charities trying to help out there.  What can we possibly do to alleviate their terrible suffering, and the knowledge that they may never be able to go back home - in fact, is there a home to go to?

Thursday 10 October 2013

Cleaning out old files.

Yesterday I had a day all to myself as the farmer was away, so I took the opportunity to completely clean out my computer desk.   What a revelation.   I was amazed by the amount of poetry I had written in the days before my medication stopped my creative processes working, and also astonished to find out the number of posts I had written and how long I had been blogging.

I came across the entry which I had printed out for some reason - for Tuesday 6th January 2009.   I called the poem 'The Coldest Night of the Year' and it struck me that it was quite relevant for today.   The temperature here today is twelve degrees colder than it was yesterday; there is a bitter Easterly wind blowing and every few minutes there is a heavy shower.   It would seem that Autumn has arrived with a vengeance.  In fact (look away now if you would rather not know this), I have put on my thermals today.

So here, with no apologies, is a repeat of that entry on the coldest night of the year.   I am certain it will not be the coldest night of the year but from where I am standing it sure feels like it will be.

The owl,
from his lofty perch
looks down on the
glittering, moonlit yard.
He sees
the cattle steaming in the byre,
the farm cats, well fed, in the hay,
the blazing fire upon the hearth,
the logs - where once he might have perched -
piled high;
the crumpets waiting in the dish
for toasting when the fire is right.
And then the night begins to close
around the scene.
The moon retires behind the cloud,
the curtains drawn, the dark comes down.
The fieldmouse moves across the yard
to find the corn to feed her brood.
He swoops, the deadly dart,
his talons kill; without a sound
he's gone upon his silent wing.
The cold comes down and icy fingers
coat the hedge with frost.
Inside, the crumpets,
toasted at the hearth,
are eaten, whilst the owl
devours his prey,
swallowed whole, untasted,
but sufficient for the hour.

So join me in spirit for a glass of blackberry whisky and a toasted
crumpet before a blazing fire.   Keep warm 
This is my 1673rd blog post.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Yesterday I had to go to our (fairly) local hospital to have a cortisone injection into my ankle.  The trouble with my ankle is making me quite immobile some days, so this is the first thing the specialist is trying.

I wasn't looking forward to it.  Anyone who has ever had one will know what I mean - it is a very painful injection.   I couldn't have been more wrong!   First of all I was shown into a room and introduced to a doctor - a charming young man (from Galway and with an accent to match) who spent five minutes explaining exactly what he was going to do.  First he did an ultra-sound and then marked the exact spot where the injection was going to go in.   Then he painted my foot with antiseptic, told me to look away as this would be a bit sharp and then injected an anaesthetic into my ankle.   The pin prick was sharp and there was about ten seconds when it was just a bit painful.   Then came the steroid (usually the most painful thing) - I never felt a single twinge.   Later in the afternoon the farmer had to go to his GP - he has a bad shoulder problem - and he mentioned my steroid injection.   The GP said they could have done it at the surgery but there would have been none of that business - just a straightforward steroid jab.    I know where I will go if I need another!

On the way back as we came into our lane we came up behind .the murderer' as Ronald Blythe calls it in 'Borderlands',   It is a giant machine which cuts back the hedges where they are beginning to encroach on the roadway.   Crash, bang, wallop, it goes along the roadsides slashing away and flinging sticks and branches in all directions (hopefully he clears up after himself).   I complained to the farmer that it left the hedges looking such a mess throughout the Winter and he agreed but said it would rejuvenate in the Spring and the hedges would be better for it.   He may be right but two things struck me.  First - is this really the only time of year when they can do it, because surely it destroys no end of berries which may well be needed by the wild birds this Winter?  Second - wasn't it all the more picturesque when this job was done by one or two men who worked their way along the hedgerow, cutting back neatly, stacking as they went along and finally burning the cuttings creating that wonderful smell of Autumn bonfires which is nothing like so much in evidence these days?

And finally, as I was reading Ronald Blythe early this morning with my first cup of coffee I came across one of those useless pieces of information which I thought I would share with you as it is interesting in the run up to Christmas (sorry if I am the first to mention it) when I hope I shall hear more than once my favourite carol - Adam Lay Bounden - with the line 'and all for an apple, an apple which he took'.  For Blythe says the idea that 'the fall from grace' was caused by an apple is not right.   The misunderstanding arose,  as Blythe says, "Because in St Jerome's Latin Genesis 'malum' is the word for both apple and evil.

I'll bet you didn't know that.  Have a nice day.   It is set to get cold here but the sun is shining gloriously into our South-facing windows and I have to rest my ankle so have no need to go out in it.

Monday 7 October 2013

Tess's first sight of the sea.

Tess is four and a half years old but has never been to the seaside.   Yesterday we had to return my heart contraption to Middlesbrough and as that is almost on the coast we decided to pack a picnic lunch, take Tess and go on to the seaside.

An easy journey along the A174; we turned a corner and there - spread out in front of us - was the vast expanse of the sea.   Wonderful.   I love the sea and haven't seen it since going to Norfolk in May.

We turned down into a tiny side road to Runswick Bay which we reasoned would probably be less crowded than other places along that coast.   And we were right.   Going down the hill to the sea we spotted a place in the Car park immediately and moved into it.
There were few people on the beach, the tide was out and there was sand for Tess to run on.   She was so excited, running here and there, jumping up in the air, greeting other dogs.   Finally she dashed into the sea, gave a yelp and dashed out again!   She tried a drink, visibly shuddered and ran back to us.  
We ate our salmon sandwiches and our kit-kats and crisps here, drank our coffee and then decided to come home through the North York Moors National Park - that vast wilderness with incredible views, which a fortnight ago would have purple with heather.

Eventually we reached the top of Sutton Bank, where the Hambledon Hills fall away suddenly to the plain below.  Here, at the National Park Centre, we stopped and had another walk, coming back along the edge, with fantastic views over the plain and also of Lake Gormire.   The farmer loves this view as all the farming is laid out in front of us.   It is a good time of year to view the land as (hopefully) most of the farming jobs are done for the year.   The fields are harvested, the grass is cut and gathered in, the hedges are trim, the fields are ploughed and often sown with next year's crop.

We arrived home at half past four tired but happy after an enjoyable day out, but keeping awake through Strictly, Country File and Antiques Road Show was extremely difficult.  Tess slept through the lot!

Sunday 6 October 2013

Unexpected visitors at lunch time!

What does one do when unexpected visitors turn up on the doorstep just at lunch time?   Offer them a bite of lunch of course.
What if there is not enough to go round?   Think of something quick and easy that will cook while you are laying the table of course.
Here is an idea which I tried, which worked and which will henceforth be a standby in my kitchen cupboard for just such an occasion.
I diluted a jar of ready-made tomato and roasted pepper pasta sauce with a vegetable stock cube and water, added a tin of rinsed cannelini beans and a handful of macaroni and simmered it until said macaroni was cooked.   Then I stirred in a good handful of parmesan (and put more on the table, ready grated) and served it with a good sour dough loaf of bread.   Delicious.   Problem solved.   Sigh of relief.

Saturday 5 October 2013

All kinds of weather.

Yesterday we had to be in Middlesbrough (40 miles away) for 9am, so it was an early start for me - not so for the farmer who is always up early (fifty years of milking cows means that his brain is set to wake him up at around 5am).   During our journey we encountered absolutely every kind of Autumn weather.   We left here in very thick fog;  the fog cleared to reveal a grey day;   then the sun broke through;   then it poured with rain.   When we returned I took Tess for a walk.   It was a lovely Autumn day with smells of rotting leaves, sycamore trees in their Autumn glory, a gentle breeze and a very warm sun.   My friend W and I were expecting to go to the new Marks and Spencer flagship store in Durham but I had only been back from my walk for five minutes when it poured with rain.
And we did not fancy a journey of 60 miles up the A1 on a Friday afternoon in torrential rain.  So instead we went to a local Farm Shop/Cafe for a pot of tea and a piece of cake (cheese scone for me and coffee and walnut cake for W).

There were men with women in the cafe (there was a day when one would have said husbands with their wives, but not so these days).  But there were no men sitting together chatting.   Is this going into a cafe for afternoon tea a woman thing?   When I think about it - do men have friends like women do?   I suppose they have golfing friends, or friends at 'the club', or walking friends (in the case of the farmer) - but in no instance would the farmer ring one of his walking friends up just for a chat, or to suggest they went out to a cafe for a cup of tea. Do men and women have different needs on the friendship front?  I suppose a man might ring a male friend and arrange to meet him down the pub for a pint.

Or perhaps it is an age thing.   Perhaps young men regularly meet their friends but as men get older they no longer need to do this.   I don't know but it would be interesting to find out.

Ah well, the moving finger writes and having writ moves us - I shall now go and get washed and dressed.   No shower today as I have this ECG thing hanging round my waist, but when I think about the days when folk only had a bath on a Friday night whether they needed it or not (and often in the water which had already been used by older brothers and sisters) one day should not make it necessary for folk to avoid me.   Enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing - and if you are in the UK, enjoy this flash of Autumn weather; it is not set to last.

Wednesday 2 October 2013


Today was our Writers' Group meeting.   It is always such a jolly good morning.  This morning there were a dozen of us and the topic to be written about was 'A Book Review'.   That in itself was interesting because as each person read out their review we learned of their interests - classics, detective novels, childrens' stories, cricket - almost as many different genres as there were members of the group.   We meet for two hours and we just managed to get round everyone before time was up.

Then it was out to lunch with a friend from the group.   We went to a local  bistro for crab cakes with salad and chunky chips, followed by coffee.   All delicious.

The farmer meanwhile was walking with a group of three friends - in the most appalling weather.   Up here in the hills, if it is wet this time of year it usually also means very low cloud; and so it was, barely able to see beyond a hundred yards or so.   They were all well-equipped and none of them were the type to give up on a walk because of a 'drop of rain'.  Also, mercifully, it stopped raining long enough for them to sit on some rocks up against a wall and eat their lunch - only to start raining again the moment they walked.

Now it is after tea, all the curtains are drawn as it is dark outside (7pm), it is still raining and heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow, when I have to go to the Audiology Department of our local hospital (25 miles away!) for new hearing aids.   The good news is that I should end up within the next couple of weeks by being able to hear what people say to me!

The next day I have to go to our larger hospital (40 miles away) to have an Electro Cardiograph fitted for 48 hours and then the poor old farmer has to take me back on Sunday to have it removed.  Why are our hospitals so far away?   Well, they say that this particular one (James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough) is an excellent one - very large but with top facilities.   The really good thing about it is that it has the most wonderful cake in the cafe!   The Parking facilities at both is a nightmare.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

After yesterday's post!!


Yes, after yesterday's post there was an article in Times 2 this morning about baby buggies (or push chairs as they were called in my day).  Not about which way round baby is to sit - it seems accepted that they will always face towards the pusher.

This article was about the 'in' buggies to buy and their price.  The world has indeed gone crazy.   While children in Syria, and many other places, are starving, have little or nothing and no prospect of ever returning to their homeland, the article listed the best buggies.
Prices were, respectively, £329.95; £405. 00; £699. 00; and the things which were deemed most important were three wheels (with a front wheel lock so that the pusher could also exercise by jogging at the same time); adjustable handle bars so that various folk can push (and a lock so that if you lose your grip whilst jogging the whole thing will lock); a handbrake; reclining seats, sun canopy; water bottle holder; folding is not deemed to be important.   But then, how many of the folk using these would ever need to fold it up to stagger on to a bus anyway?

Such buggy-pushing burns 75 calories a minute.   I ask but one simple question.   If mum/dad or whoever is busy checking their water bottle, notching up the calories  airing their swish buggy as they jog up the street - are they interacting with the occupant at all?